South Africa’s defence acquisition, disposals and research and development agency Armscor announced on Thursday the preferred bidders to supply ships for the South African Navy’s (SAN’s) projects Biro and Hotel. They are Damen Shipyards Cape Town and South African Shipyards.
Project Biro is for the construction of three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs). Damen is the preferred bidder for both types. Project Hotel is for the construction of a new hydrographic survey ship, although the Armscor press release describes it as a “Hydrographic Survey Capability”.
“During 2014, Armscor solicited offers on a multi-source tender basis from prospective shipyards … On 15 February 2017, Armscor appointed the … preferred bidders, subject to the successful negotiation of detailed technical and commercial conditions with the aim of arriving at a contracting position for the execution of the respective projects,” stated the agency. “Detailed commercial and technical negotiations with the preferred bidders will now commence with the relevant parties.”
Durban-based Southern African Shipyards describes itself as “Africa’s leading commercial, naval shipbuilding and ship repair company”. Its facilities include a graving dock, a floating dock, a repair quay and workshops. It was originally established in 1960 and has been building vessels of greatly varying sizes for several decades. For the SAN, it built six strike craft (large missile boats), two minehunters and the replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg, the largest naval vessel ever built in South Africa.
Damen Shipyards has been active in South Africa since 2008, when it took over local company Farocean Marine (which was established in 1988). Farocean Marine and the Netherlands-based Damen Group had worked closely together for some 20 years before the latter acquired the former. The Dutch group expanded, upgraded and modernised the facility. Damen Shipyards Cape Town is 30%-owned by black empowerment company Montsi Investments. It is also involved in ship building and ship repair. Its customers include the SAN and other South African government agencies.
One of Armscor’s requirements for both projects Biro and Hotel is local content of 60%. This suggests that the vessels will be built in South Africa, not just fitted out here. Just over a year ago, the Department of Trade and Industry forecast that this local content requirement would see more than R6-billion spent within the country over a period of three or four years.
No details have yet been released on the designs of the new ships. Damen, for example, has a range of designs for both IPVs and OPVs, of various sizes in both cases. Southern African Shipyards has partnered with Cape Town-based naval architecture and offshore engineering company 6Sigma on Project Hotel. The company’s online design portfolio does not include survey ships, but does include an offshore support vessel design that could be adapted to become a hydrographic survey ship.